All the plaudits were for Vincent Janssen.
The Dutchman had just scored a league high of 27 goals for AZ Alkmaar and had received his first senior call-up for Holland. Janssen’s star was rising and Premier League clubs took notice. Tottenham Hotspur eventually signed the energetic forward for an initial fee of €20M in the summer of 2016.
Now, six months into his Tottenham career, Janssen has scored just three goals in 23 appearances for the club and has even been excluded from Tottenham’s last three EPL match squads. It has led to talk of a possible loan – or even permanent – move away from White Hart Lane. But why hasn’t Janssen been able to impress?
Two of Janssen’s main qualities are his physicality and his tireless work ethic. In England, however, the 22-year-old finds himself battling with far more physical and taller players and sees his work ethic being matched as the pace of the English game simply demands that. Apart from these two qualities, there isn’t much else to Janssen’s game which makes him a limited forward for the Premier League.
Another AZ Alkmaar striker failed in England for somewhat similar reasons. The man in question – Jozy Altidore – was purchased by Sunderland in 2013 after enjoying two fine seasons in front of goal in the Eredivisie. But just like Janssen, Altidore experienced that the Premier League demands some extra quality to get the same goal scoring numbers as in Holland, other than physicality.
By way of contrast, Bryan Ruiz – one of Eredivisie’s most gifted players ever to be exported to England – was unable to blossom in the Premier League for entirely the opposite causes. The Costa Rican stood out in Holland for FC Twente because of his wonderful talent to breeze past defenders with unbelievable ease. In addition, Ruiz knew how to find the goal.
When, in 2011, Ruiz made the switch to the Premier League to play for Fulham, the attacking midfielder simply wasn’t able to handle the physicality of the league. With the exception of the Eden Hazard’s and David Silva’s of this world, players can’t solely depend on their footballing abilities if they want to make it in England. Ruiz was the perfect example.
So, what does it take to be a successful Premier League footballer? Well, let’s have a look at arguably the most successful Premier League player coming from the Eredivisie; Luis Suárez. The Uruguayan is the complete package. He possesses a mix of both the physicality and work ethic as well as exceptional footballing ability; a perfect Premier League player.
Another example, who might have had its difficulties at Manchester City but was simply outstanding at Swansea City, is Wilfried Bony. The Ivorian is, just like Jozy Altidore, a very powerful player. Yet, Bony has that bit of extra quality that makes him flourish in England as well.
Can Vincent Janssen turn around his Premier League career and deliver the goods like Suárez or Bony? It seems unlikely. At his age, Janssen should be playing week-in-week-out and developing, otherwise, Janssen could find himself at a death track. A scenario which has killed off many promising careers of players coming from the Eredivisie.